Monday, December 31, 2018

12/31/18 - A Look Back

Last day of 2018.  It was kind of a rough one. Last year, the holiday season (2017) was not good. I had been sober for a couple of months, drank towards the end of October and then drank my way through the holidays. Last December, I drank on our vacation to the mountains (on my dd birthday) and was not happy with myself.

I started the year sober and even made it through my 50th birthday. I drank one beer in March with my new colleagues at my favorite brewery in the sun on a Friday.  I didn't drink again for a couple of weeks and then went on vacation over Spring Break. Had one beer in the airport and then only six beers in the next three days (two each night while making dinner).  I never got drunk but just didn't feel well. I wasn't sleeping well, had bad stomach aches, definitely had the "sneaking feeling" while drinking/cooking - trying to hide the bottle and take drink when no one was looking. They knew I was drinking but I certainly wasn't proud of the fact.  When asked about it, I just gave my typical response, "I'm fine."  I may have said I was fine and even tried to convince myself of that but was having the "panicky/I need to get some alcohol/when am I going to drink/let's hurry to the airport bar before the flight/panicky the waitress is taking too long to bring me the beer...I won't have time for a second/hurry...dh...go to the beer section at the grocery store and get me some beer before the kids notice or I change my mind....HURRY!) I explained the mental and emotional ramifications of drinking here. It think this is a great reminder that even if I am able to keep the amount under control, alcohol still had a profound effect on my mental and emotional well being.

April and May were a disaster. I wrote this is April

Please don't drink this weekend. You are sitting here at 4:00 am on Monday morning feeling bloated, puffy, exhausted and disappointed in yourself. You once again decided drinking would be a good idea and have, once again, paid a steep price. Just a reminder - you were up Saturday night from 3:30-5:30 with a stomach ache, extreme anxiety, hot flashes and heart palpitations. You laid on the couch, ate quesadillas and drank ginger ale, feeling awful, watching Dr. Phil for two hours before you could go back to sleep. Is that any way to live? Were those glasses of wine worth it? You are still not working out because you are recovering from the choices of Saturday night. You have stepped back onto the hamster wheel of feeling terrible on Sun-Wed. Then, just when you body starts to get rid of all the toxins, you start convincing yourself it would be a good idea to re-poison yourself this weekend. You are never going to get in shape, find mental freedom and be the best version of yourself if you continue to poison yourself every weekend.

I wrote this is June after the last time I drank

Went to my sister's house for a party last night. Drank one hard seltzer before I left and then three more there before I switched to wine. Once I switched to wine I just didn't want to stop. My dh asked me to not drink wine and to leave with him at 10:30.  I said no and that I wanted to stay and play cards. I just kept drinking and was kinda glad my ds and dh weren't there to watch me. We even opened another bottle and made him come back and get me at 12:00.  Needless to say I woke up with an anxiety attack, shaky, with a headache and nauseous.  I feel like total garbage.  This is the pattern I didn't want to repeat for the millionth time - do well moderating for a while, drinking slowly increasing, finally culminating in a bad night followed by a horrendous hangover.

I finally make my way downstairs this morning and my dh, who is usually really supportive of me no matter what I am doing (moderating/abstaining/struggling), says, "I don't have a lot of sympathy for you today. I tried to get you to leave and to not drink wine." I shoot back, "I'm not looking for sympathy." He says, "I'm getting a little tired of this.....either stop drinking or be an alcoholic! You wanted to stay last night not to play cards but to keep drinking!"  

I was shocked and hurt that he said that to me. He has never said anything like that to me before. I just started crying and couldn't stop....not because he said it, but because he is probably right and it is just really hard to hear. I don't want to be an alcoholic. I don't want to stop drinking. I want to be able to moderate and drink like everyone else does.  

After I wrote this and swore I would never drink again, 4 days later I felt better and was thinking about drinking that weekend. I finally gave up and called for help. This was followed by six weeks on IOP - Intensive Outpatient Therapy, prescriptions and therapy appointments. I am so I spent my July at Kaiser and did all of that work mostly bc if I think about drinking now, I think about all the time I put in and how it would have been a complete waste of time.

Now I have been sober almost 7 months (January 10). My greatest hope is that I don't write about how terrible I feel bc of alcohol during 2019. I truly want to focus on being more at peace with me and the way I am living. I am incredibly proud of myself for the progress I have made. I am grateful for many things and am going to start writing about how great life is and how grateful I am to be able to live it and enjoy it SOBER!

Friday, December 28, 2018

12/28/19 - Getting older (shameful admissions)

As shallow as it sounds, I do feel that a lot of my insecurity with getting older is with my appearance. In my 20s and 30s I was always super confident in the way I looked. I worked out a lot and was pretty proud of my appearance...maybe even a little conceited to be honest. I was in better shape than all of my friends. In my 40s, I started to notice myself getting older - age spot from tanning for many years, wrinkles around my lips, parenthesis around my mouth, gray hairs becoming too numerous to pick out....drinking was also becoming more and more important in my life which lead to me becoming out of shape and flabby. I wasn't working out and eating way too much sugar and processed food, mostly bc all of my attention was going to the exhausting pursuit of trying to control my alcohol intake (and still is except now the work is staying sober).  I refuse to buy "fat" clothes so everything is too tight. I constantly feel uncomfortable unless I am schlepping around the house in yoga pants.

I am now the older woman standing in front of the mirror pulling the face up by the ears to see what I used to look like. I never thought this would be me. I somehow thought i would stay young, thin and vibrant forever. Getting old was for people who didn't care about how they looked and had just given up. Well, I have also  given up it seems.  It is depressing, really.  I even noticed that people are treating me differently - I don't seem to get the same level of respect at work or in normal social conversations. What I have to say just doesn't seem as important. Fewer people notice when I walk into a room. Sometimes I wonder if I have now become that older teacher that I used to look at when I was in my 20s and 30s and wonder what they even had to offer. The woman that is old, irrelevant, out of shape, has given up on her appearance. I think I was guilty of a bit of secret old age shaming and now I am that person. Maybe that is why it is hard for me...karma. I just feel like  don't matter as much anymore. It is a very subtle feeling and I am never really sure if I am imagining it bc of the insecurities I was developing bc of my issues around drinking or if it is real. I think I just have dealt with all of that "being uncomfortable in my own skin" feeling with drinking. Now I don't have the drinking to hide behind and make me feel better...more likable, more fun, younger, more important, prettier, thinner, to help me forget about all my insecurities. Even though I know that drinking made all of that worse in the long run, it did help me feel better in the moment.

Jeez...that sounded like a ridiculous, self obsessed pity party...which no one in my world ever sees, but it does feel good to get it out.

I am really an incredibly blessed woman with a great job and an incredible why do I feel so depressed about getting older and what do I do about it that doesn't involve a mind altering drug?????

Thursday, December 27, 2018

12/27/18 - almost 7 Months

I made it through Thanksgiving and Christmas. Now I just need to get through New Year's, a little vacation 1/3-1/8 and my birthday mid Jan. 

I am actually doing pretty well.

The positives:

  • No hangovers!
  • I can say no to things without worrying people think it is bc I am hungover.
  • My sister says that I seem calmer and less frantic in general
  • My sister will no longer drink in my house, even though I say I don't mind. She says it is disrespectful. She also did not drink on Thanksgiving or Christmas.
  • I am much more flexible with my plans. When I was drinking - if it wasn't perfect, it was ruined. I am much more OK with things not being perfect. For example, we hardly put up any outside lights and got a tree on 12/23 (it is usually up the day after Thanksgiving and perfect). It has barely any ornaments bc I didn't want to drag it all out of the crawl space, and you know what...who cares! I was busy doing other more important things - hanging out with my dd who is visiting and my ds who is home from college. We took hikes, got massages and did some shopping....much more rewarding than worrying about a tree.
  • I had a very intense, emotional conversation with my dd Christmas night after everyone had gone home. She is having a hard time living so far away from us. I was able to completely focus on her and support her without making it about me - which I would have done had I been drinking all day. She said that had I been drinking all day, like in the past, she probably wouldn't have even opened up to me about it. 
  • My daughter says that I am much calmer - more even keel. She said that I used to have pretty severe mood swings and that now, even if I am exhausted and grumpy or excited and happy, it is less dramatic and I am much more pleasant to be around.
  • On Christmas Eve, instead of sitting around drinking with the other adults who were drinking, I played "blackout hide and seek with my adult kids and two nephews.  It was so fun and they kept begging me to keep playing. It was super validating!
  • When my nephew is hassling my sister about drinking - I know he isn't thinking the same thing about me. I am able to be a positive role model for them.
  • I was able to tell a drinking buddy from work that I haven;t drank in 6 months. She asked why. I just said that I am unable to process alcohol anymore and the hangovers aren't worth it.
  • I am way less reactionary, sensitive and judgmental. I feel more observant, accepting, thoughtful and aware of my own thoughts and behavior.
  • I have lost 15 pounds - even while eating crappy and not working out.
The things I am still struggling with:
  • When my new friends from my new school want to go out and have drinks after work on a Friday afternoon. Sometimes I come home and cry. I suppose part of it is that I want to drink, but it is also bc I miss the camaraderie and friendships formed after work having some drinks. I also didn't go to the work Christmas party or any of the women's get together. I am not sure if it bc I will be uncomfortable not being able to drink or it is bc I don't want to answer questions about why I don't.
  • I miss the excitement that I used to feel for Thanksgiving, Christmas, a weekend, a work party, having friends over..anything that involved drinking. I know that most of that excitement was tied to being able to drink, but now everything just kind of feels blah.
  • Figuring out who I am, how to deal with getting older, what my purpose is, what value I hold, and how to deal with everything not being about me. I used to be the young, pretty, fit, fun, life of the party. I am struggling not to become the frumpy, grumpy, out of shape, not fun, boring, non relevant old lady. I used to use alcohol to connect with people, to make them like me, to gain attention, to feel relevant and important. Trying to figure out my importance in this world without alcohol. What is my value at 50 years old?
Goals for the new year:
  • Finally start working on my fitness/health...working out, eating healthy, doing yoga and meditation. I think if I could be proud of my fitness (mentally and physically) level, I would feel more positive and maybe a little less exhausted. I think it would really improve how I feel about myself.  I have been telling myself for years that I would do this and I keep breaking my commitment to myself.  I am going to really work on this. It isn't that I am old and fat...I am 50, 5'3" and weigh 135 pounds, but I am not fit. I eat crappy, none of my clothes fit properly bc of a high body fat %, and am exhausted all the time.
  • Try to figure out how to still be social without alcohol. I need friends and to feel like I "fit in". I just need to do it a couple times without drinking. It might be uncomfortable, but it might not be. I may still have fun, connect with people and realize that they really don't care it I am drinking or not. I won't know unless I conquer the fear and try. Hiding in my house all the time isn't doing my mental state any favors.
  • Stop watching stupid reality TV and start reading. It doesn't matter if it is self help books or stupid fiction novels, I need to stop checking out of my life with TV. I used to do this constantly while hungover, but now I need to start actively participating in my own life.
Here's to an alcohol free, productive, relaxing, positive 2019!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

10/28/18 - 5 Months!

Image result for 5 months sobriety

I thought I would check in this morning as I hit my five month mark today!  I feel pretty good.  I have had a couple of cravings but not too bad. I am learning that I have more "pre-party" cravings than anything. 

For example, Friday was my first experience with supervising a middle school social.  It wasn't that bad, but the kids were kind of hyper all day because of the messed up schedule and the social, so it was a bit exhausting. This was causing me to have some cravings. This kind of a day has always been a trigger for me...especially if it is on a Friday. I could always justify drinking bc it was a tough day at work and it was "kind of" hooked to a was a Halloween Social. In the past I absolutely would have gone home and had a couple of beers. Just sat back, relaxed, and thought "phew, that was exhausting". That afternoon we went to my sister's house (yes, my wine drinking buddy sister) for her son's bday party.  There were other women their who were drinking white wine (my favorite). I honestly didn't have any cravings. I just drank my seltzer spiked with San Peligrino and watched them all get a little louder. 

It did bring back the memory from last June when we were at her house for another party, everyone was drinking, I decided I would as well, got super loud, stayed until midnight and had my dh come back to pick me up. That night was followed by one of the most emotional hangovers I had ever had and my first day of sobriety. 

Anyway, the "pre-party" craving - right when I got off of work was much more difficult than while I was actually at her house. 

Last night, we were invited to a Halloween party at a brewery not too far from our house. My neighbor's (yes, my beer drinking buddy neighbor) adult sons both play in a pretty good band that was playing there. When we got there EVERYONE was drinking and loud and dancing and partying and have a really good time.  I was in my element for partying, but really didn't have too many cravings. They sold kambucha, which kind a looks like beer when poured in a glass, so I just drank that and was fine with it. I actually sat still and enjoyed the music and talking to my friends rather than being super hyper, just wanting to move around and maybe go outside so we could talk (aka I could talk) more easily.  It was actually a bit enjoyable. 

My cravings, once again, were worse when I went up to take a shower and get ready to go. This would have been when I started drinking to get ready to really drink.  Once I go there it was fine - no really anxiety or panic attacks. 

Most importantly, we left both nights at a decent time, came home went to bed, got some decent sleep and didn't wake up with a hangover.

Last weekend was a little more difficult. My new friends from my new school were going out on Friday to sit in the sun and have some drinks. It had been an exhausting week and I REALLY wanted to go. I started having all those same thoughts - you weren't ever really that bad., you just thought you were, you aren't really an alcoholic, you can control it, just go with them, bond and have a good time, you deserve it, this is stupid, it will be fine.... I didn't go but I was really bummed about it the rest of the night.  I actually sat in the Costco parking lot and had a group conversation with my adult kids and husband.  They said some pretty poignant things. My son said (kind of reasoned), "Mom, you have done so much work to get to this point. Don't throw it away for a couple of hours drinking. You know you will be disappointed tomorrow." My daughter, who is a bit more boisterous, said (kind of yelled), "Mom, are you kidding me! No! your don't need it to have a good time. You can do all the things you want to do, or not, without drinking and you will feel so much better."  My husband said (kind of pleaded), "Honey, please don't.  You are in such a better place and I don't want to see you go back down that path of constantly battling yourself and beating yourself up."  I love my family! That helped. I went into Costco, went home, was still a bit depressed but just went to bed. The next morning was really weird. I felt like I actually had an emotional hangover. I couldn't get out of bed, I laid around watching dumb tv until noon, I was exhausted and emotional and pissed and grouchy. 

I honestly think that some of this had to do with the Zoloft I had been taking. Zoloft was having three pretty big  side effects on me. One, an most importantly, it was really messing with my sleep. I never really felt like I was getting good sleep. I think it was keeping me from having REM sleep. I wasn't remembering any dreams and was waking up exhausted.  One of the huge benefits of sobriety for me is getting good sleep. This was not happening and I was just feeling so run down and tired all the time that I started wondering why I was even quitting if I wasn't going to feel any better. 

Two, it was also really messing up my intestines. My ability to go to the bathroom regularly was all messed up. I was usually pretty constipated, always felt like I had to go and then when I finally did never felt like it ever completely emptied out - I know - gross but true. This made my stomach hurt, and made me feel bloated and sluggish all the time.  There is nothing better than getting a really good night sleep and then  "taking care of business" the next morning. Neither was happening. 

Three, my neck and back were really hurting. My neck kept grinding and popping and almost getting :stuck" when I would move it a certain way. The tendon/muscle that runs between my shoulder blades and my spine was always killing me. I even bought a back massager and used it so long the first time that I bruised my back. I started doing some research and learned that all of these symptoms are side effects from the Zoloft. 

It took me three weeks but I have now weened myself off of them as of three days ago.  Maybe it is all in my head, but the last two night I slept, remembered my dreams, went to the bathroom and have had less neck/back pain.  I suppose it is possible as I was on a tiny little half of a 25 mg pill for a week before I stopped taking them. I had gotten up to a 50 mg dose. I know that really isn't that much, but maybe my body/mind is just as sensitive to these types of medication as it is to alcohol. It just doesn't work for me.  

It also does not escape me that at this exact time last year, I had been sober for a little over four months and chose to drink again, which resulted in a disastrous few months. Not this time.

Thanks to all of you that had been thinking of me and checking in.  So far so good!

Related image

Monday, September 3, 2018

9/3/18 - Could you have one glass of wine right now and be fine?

My sister (the one I always break my sobriety with...the one I love to drink wine with...the one who has never told me no when I have said I wanted to drink..the one who always questions if I am really that bad and if I will ever be able to drink again...the one who makes comments about how I am not drinking....again) invited us over for dinner last night. No one drank! It was awesome. Really the only other one who would have been drinking is her and I think she had already partied with some friends on Friday, so maybe she just wasn't feeling like it. I didn't get the impression it was because of me.

We were sitting on her back deck just chatting for a long time. Her husband joined us and asked me, "Do you miss drinking?" Well, that is a very complicated question that took a minute to answer... probably too long but I feel like the more they understand, the more they will support me. This was my response:

Sometimes, yes, I do miss it.  I have been thinking about what I really miss about it. Do I miss the low lows that come after drinking that lasts for days...NO!  Do I miss feeling buzzed, feeling kind of hyper and happy yet relaxed without any anxiety...sometimes but really not so much. I really don't think I miss the feeling of actually being buzzed. I would much rather sit here completely in the moment and present not trying to dominate the conversation and really not listening to anything. In fact, I have to say (directed toward my sister) I am really glad this evening turned out the way it did. You are really hard for me because we have always drank wine together and I have always enjoyed that. It has been difficult to be around you lately bc it triggers me to want to drink. The more we do this (get together without drinking) the easier it will be for me. She said, "I agree."

I continued...I think the really hard thing for me is missing the anticipation of drinking. Getting excited for the weekend and parties and get togethers and events.  I have a hard time feeling excited for things and many times don't even want to do them. I would just rather sit on my couch watch tv and go to bed bc it doesn't seem like it would be fun without alcohol. I know it could be, but I just don't want to deal with it. I also know that I can't isolate and the more sober experiences I have, the easier it will get. It just takes a lot of talking myself into even leaving my house. Once I do,  I end up being glad I did, but it is hard when nothing sounds fun anymore. I hope, with time, this gets better.

He doesn't drink very often and usually has no desire so he really doesn't understand. He asked, "So, are you saying you can never have another drink again? Are you like my uncle that if he drank a beer right now, he would be a drunk for days? Could you have one glass of wine right now and be fine?"

My response...Yes, I could have one glass of wine right now and not go off the deep end bingeing for days. But would I be fine? No. My obsession would start back up, my compulsive behavior with alcohol would be triggered, my alcohol induced bipolar behavior would start back up, my anxiety would increase, my insomnia would increase, my depression would increase, my heart palpitations and hot flashes would start back up, my oversensitive feeling would come back. And (after 10 years of keeping track) I know it would just be a matter of months before I was binge drinking again on the weekends, suffering from debilitating hangovers and just back in a very dark place. That one glass of wine right now isn't worth it. Alcohol is just not good for me.

Then, amazing things happened. My son chimed in. He said, "She is right. My sister and I have seen that cycle over and over and over for years. She is right. It will happen again." My husband said, "She is just happier when she isn't drinking." And my sister (who has never really understood it) said, "It is just better for her if she doesn't drink at all."

I left there house actually feeling understood. It was an amazing evening that would have never happened if I would have had that one glass of wine.

85 Days Sober

Sunday, August 26, 2018

8/26/18 - Building new relationships with old friends.

Got through my first full week as a middle school teacher.  I love it! I'm sure it is going to get more difficult once the assignments start rolling in (or not) and I have to deal with missing/ late work, kids who aren't understanding, parents who have questions, etc. but it is a relief to only teach one subject. Also, middle school teacher seem to be a little more chill which is good for me. I tend to get caught up in the environment I am in. If I am teaching with intense teachers, I tend to be more intense. I'd rather be chill :)

No major craving this week - too busy and too tired. Friday -  just came home, binged watched some Netflix, ate some pizza and went to bed early. Last night dh wanted to get together with two of our couple friends. He had gotten mad at me last weekend for not wanting to do anything, so I (reluctantly) said yes. One of the other women doesn't drink, so that made my decision a little easier. We went to dinner and then came back to our house. They guys stayed inside drinking their fancy high alcohol imperial stouts. We sat out back on the patio. I made myself a lemon/mint San Pellegrino in a fancy stemless wine glass full of ice and we just talked for four hours. 

I have to was nice. We all kind of shared some things we were struggling with and were a little vulnerable.  I shared a little about my alcohol journey which always feels empowering. When I drank, I never really had authentic conversations with anyone. I was a manic made me hyper and kinda selfish. Sure, I could sit and talk for hours, but I was still hyper in my own head, wasn't really listening and probably wouldn't remember the conversations clearly the next day. I was sitting there talking and drinking and "listening" but not really present. It wasn't a real connection.

Last night, I really feel like we had some connections and were honest yet supportive of each other. I never have felt like I have had "real" girlfriends that truly cared about me and what was happening in my life. That could be bc I have been so wrapped up in my own bullshit for so many years I haven't really cared about anyone else. All of my relationships have seemed superficial bc they have been built while drinking. They have been more like drinking buddies.

Maybe now I can start to build some supportive, girlfriend, "real" connections with people. It is an interesting prospect that isn't going to happen with me isolating on the couch. I do know I need down time, though, so maybe just "chill" on Friday night and then try to do something social on Saturday...even if I don't feel like it. I didn't feel like it last night but am now glad that I did.

Here's to a hangover free life and building "real, authentic" relationships with people!

Saturday, August 18, 2018

8/18/18 - Relapse behavior

Well....I have been soooo busy the last couple of weeks. I went back to school. I got a new job in a middle school teaching math. I haven't switched schools for 15+ years so it has been a little stressful getting to know the new building and people. They have already gone out twice for happy hour. I have avoided both times giving some stupid excuse.  I have come home exhausted every night. I know I am not taking care of myself bc I am not working out, not going to appointments (I cancelled my therapist appt last night), not blogging, not reading, not meditating, not doing yoga, not eating well, not sleeping well, not even walking my dogs. Last night I really wanted to just sit down, after an exhausting week, and have a beer.  I didn't (and haven't for 69 days) but it was definitely on my mind. 

I learned from my IOP over the summer that need to recognize all of this behavior as a possible sign of relapse and be proactive to get in a better place. In the past, I start sliding down this slope of stress (at work), exhaustion (at home) and not taking care of myself only to keep sliding and eventually drinking to feel better. I need to recognize this and start doing things (as hard as it may be) to take care of myself so that I can be strong and self confident when a true "panic attack craving" comes. I feel it starting to toy with my mind. I am fooling myself if I think it won't happen this time - that this time is any different than the last 25 times I have tried to quit - that this time I am cured.

If I want different, I have to do different not just try to think different. So....I am updating my blog, I am going to get off my butt, get some stuff done today, but also take some time to just sit in the sun or do yoga or get a massage or something that helps fill my wellness tank a bit.

I have tried changing by changing my thoughts or emotions but it doesn't last. I need to change my behavior....I need to take care of myself.

Image result for changing behavior changing mind

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

8/7/18 - I did it!!! Alcohol free vacation!!!

So we went to Vancouver for a vacation last week.   I haven't had an alcohol free vacation since I was a teenager - so basically never as an adult. Vacations for me are all about drinking. I let my "rules" slide and alcohol is part of every day. Alcohol as always been one of the reasons I love going on vacation so much. I was super nervous about a sober vacation.

There were a few times that were difficult like the first night we arrived at out Airbnb house. It was a cute little house with a great back patio with couches and a fire pit. Man, a glass of wine would have been perfect. Then we went to a "Social House". They are these restaurants that focus on their drink menu. Kind of an uppity food and drink place. We went there because it was in walking distance and we were starving. As we sat outside on the patio, I wistfully watched women sit around with glasses of white wine and was a little sad. I ALWAYS drank on the first night to celebrate arriving and the beginning on our vacation.  Another time was when we went to Whistler and rode the Peak to Peak tram. When we were finished exploring, we went into the ski lodge to use the restroom and there was a fantastic outdoor seating area with magnificent views. Of course there was a bar and many people were enjoying a leisurely beer. That was a little hard to see. An IPA would have been perfect. Two other times that were a little difficult were when we were at the "Local Public Eatery" in Gastown. It was super busy - everyone drinking - a lot of people watching - just a festive, party atmosphere - this was probably hardest meal. Also, when we went to Granville Island and sat on the dock overlooking the marina eating dinner. The waitress started by talking about a drink special - lemonade, seltzer and vodka. I would have for sure ordered that as it was kinda hot outside. I ordered a virgin one instead.

I got through all of those occasions without drinking. Was I a little sad that I couldn't get that "anticipatory, hyper, fun, relaxed, happy" feeling that alcohol gives me - yes. Was I super grumpy and mad - no. I was just "being", just living in the moment with a clear head and certainly glad when I didn't wake up with a hangover. I definitely felt better in the mornings. My dh got a little snippy one night and I know if I had been drinking I would have overreacted which would have turned it into yet another huge fight on vacation. I was able to just tell him how I felt and then let it go.

My daughter asked me a very poignant question while at dinner in both Gastown and on Granville Island. I made a comment about how I would have been drinking. She asked, "Exactly what would that do for you right now? How would it make this moment better?"  I really had to think about that. What would a beer have done for me? How would have it changed the situation? While I do like feeling buzzed, I think I actually like having a clear head better. So what is it then? I think it was the "idea" of it. The romanticizing of it. The perceived enjoyment of it. The feeling of being part of the party - which is stupid because I was just sitting at a table with my family. Maybe it was the anticipation of it or the sophisticated , grown up feeling I get when drinking, somehow drinking makes me feel important - like it inflates my ego - like I'm more cool or something....or maybe, just maybe, it is as simple as - I am feeding my addiction which feels good.

I found myself thinking about alcohol most of the vacation, but not in an anxiety attack, intense craving sort of way which I thought was going to be the case. It was more of a curious, what would have I been doing right now, how would have it changed the situation if I was drinking sort of way. I also noticed that my thoughts were not being ruled by - where is a liquor store, is it late enough in the day to have a beer, when are we eating and do they serve alcohol, will the kids get mad if we stop at Whistler and have a beer, would it be really bad to have a Bloody Mary in the airport at 10:00 in the morning, can I sneak of with my dh to drink so the kids don't see me, will everyone judge me if I buy some wine, will my kids get mad if they have to drive even though they aren't on the rental contract, is it ok to drink as it is vacation and I will just start over when I get back, etc.  My brain was a lot quieter and calmer on this trip. I felt a little less selfish and willing to be open to what everyone else wanted to do.

I definitely know being with my kids helped. I want to make them proud of me. They know how hard I have worked at my sobriety this summer and would have been sad for me if I would have drank. I am proud of myself. I didn't want to let myself down. I wanted to be proud of myself as well. Instead of coming home feeling like an emotional wreck, exhausted and ignoring everything I needed to do, I came home, got a ton done, got a lot of sleep and am ready to go back to work tomorrow. I DEFINITELY  have less anxiety when I maintain my sobriety.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

7/29/18 Sharing with my neighbor

Yesterday started out kinda rough.  Still pretty physically blah but felt a little better mentally. Made myself get out of the house and went to dinner with family. Drank a Ginger Ale and gave myself permission to order a kinda pricey salmon dish as I was saving $20 on the two glasses of wine I would have normally drank. Came home and invited the neighbors (the one I wanted a beer with on Friday) over. I felt strong enough to socialize. I had blown her off on a number of occasions, including Friday, and didn't want her to think it was her so I told her everything. She knows that I go through periods of drinking and not drinking, but did not know the extent of my mental issues around my addiction. I told her that I don't necessarily drink like an alcoholic but I definitely THINK like one which would undoubtedly lead me to eventually to drinking like one. Even if that never happened, I am just sick of trying to battle the obsessive/compulsive nature of my thoughts around alcohol.  She is a super nice person but they are both pretty big drinkers, so I wasn't sure what her reaction would be.

After I was done telling her a brief history, where it had gotten to and about reaching out for help, she said, "You know I love you. I am so glad you talked to me about it. You need to have friends to talk to. I don't care if you drink or not and I think it is great you recognized you have a problem and are working on it."

I would call yesterday a success and today I feel much better about tackling a sober vacation.Vacations in the past have been exhausting. Thinking about drinking, drinking every day and waking up with a hangover almost every morning. I usually get back from vacations physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted.  I have a great time, no doubt, but certainly do not feel relaxed and rested when I get home. I am going to try to have a different focus this vacation. Instead of hyper/party vacation full of selfish drinking, fighting and hangovers, I'm going to try a calm/restful vacation full of hiking, site seeing, dining and enjoying my family.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

7/28/18 Bad Day

Yesterday was not good.  My son has promised he would go on a hike with me. In my mind it was a reward for completing my IOP and getting all of my housework done. In his mind it was never a "for sure" thing. I waited for him to finally wake up only for him to say he didn't want to/couldn't bc he had too much to do and he was too tired.

My day just went off the rails. I was very disappointed which turned into being mad at him. Then, when outside, a neighbor said, "Want to get together for a beer later this afternoon?" which turned into me feeling sorry for myself bc I couldn't which turned into me getting really anxious about our upcoming vacation in which I can't drink. When he left to have lunch with a friend, I just sat in my room and cried. Then I binge watched Intervention. I did nothing all day and just felt really down in the dumps.

I even went as far as thinking, "My son doesn't even seem to care how disappointed I am. Maybe I will just have a beer and then he will know how upset he made me." How terrible is that! To make my son feel guilty for me having a beer! I couldn't believe I even thought this. That addictive voice is so selfish and conniving!

I am not going to lie - the thought of just letting go of all this silly sober stuff and having a beer with my friend and then being able to drink on vacation made me feel better. When I allowed myself to go to that mental place of justifying drinking, I really did feel my mood lift.

I also think the thought of my first sober vacation is really weighing on me. I drove to the airport on Wednesday and my thoughts went from excited bc next week I will be driving here to get on a plane for vacation to super excited bc my mind immediately went to being able to drink to disappointment that I can't drink (like I felt my shoulders slump) to worry and anxiety about having a sober vacation. All of these thoughts were out of my control and just flooded over me.

I didn't let myself stay in that place for too long for the fear of it sticking. I tried to "think it all the way through". If I had a beer with my friend, I would wake up tomorrow morning so mad at myself. I would think about the fact that it really didn't do that much for me and it wasn't worth how mad I would be the next day. It would also really increase my anxiety about vacation. I would be thinking things like, "Well I already screwed up. I might as well wait until after vacation to start again. It will be fine. My family might be a little disappointed in me, but they will get over it.  I will show them that I can do it after vacation." Those voices become so strong they are sometimes hard to resist. I read that these voices are the hallmark of an addiction. Proof I am addicted to alcohol.

I also tried to think about the saying, "Life on life's terms." I don't really understand that saying but I think it might mean "ya, so you are having a bad day, your son bailed on you...everyone has bad days - you don't need a drug to make you feel better - that makes you a drug addict - it will pass - it is just a bad day - hopefully tomorrow will be better. Drinking may help you feel better in the moment bc you are feeding your addiction, but most certainly will not help you be free from shame and disappointment in yourself. Drinking is not the answer to making a bad day better as it makes your tomorrow worse. Also, you need to have this sober vacation.  This is the perfect time to do it. You are only with your family - no drinking friends - who are supportive of your sobriety and will be super proud of you. Also, you may just have a relaxing, fun sober time. You will be so proud of yourself and it will be another really big milestone in your recovery"

I got over being mad at my son - like 10 hours later. I was really honest with my dh. He asked what would make me feel better. My immediate response was, "a beer." This made me think that the one disappointment in my day was really just getting my addiction becoming active and giving me an excuse. 

I didn't snap out of it - I just binge watched Big Brother and went to bed. I feel better today, but still not great. 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

7/26/18 12th IOP Group Mtg and Shame and "The Wall"

Yesterday was my last IOP group meeting! I did it! I went to all 12 - 3 hour meetings. Now I need to figure out what to do next. Relapse Prevention meetings through Kaiser once a week (12 more to do)? Continue the family education meetings through Kaiser once a week (8 more to do)? Life Ring?

Yesterday the topic was Shame and Guilt - the same topic as my very first meeting. I guess I didn't need to go yesterday, but I was glad I did. It kind of felt like coming full circle. I remember sitting in that very first meeting - terrified. I didn't want to talk, I was barely listening to the topic (shame and guilt) and did not share anything. Yesterday, I felt totally comfortable, actually a little sad to be done as I have developed a sense of caring for a few of the members. And I shared. I talked about how I don't have a lot of guilt around drinking. I haven't gotten a DUI, lost a job, ruined relationships and that lack of guilt sometimes gets my in trouble bc it stimulates my relapse justification voice.

What I do have is shame. Shame I couldn't control it, shame that I always ended up back to my weekend binge drinking, that I couldn't keep my promises to myself, that I couldn't do better, that I couldn't BE better, that I was weak and that there was something inherently wrong with me. THIS is why I finally decided to get help. Not bc I have had external consequences or bc I drink everyday or get the shakes or need medical detox or am willing to give everything up for a drink - but bc I was living in my own mental torture chamber filled with shame and guilt and self loathing and depression and anxiety. As my therapist says, "I was not living according to my values. I was in conflict with the person I wanted to be."

We read this article and I could relate to almost all of the content. I almost stated crying when we read this paragraph:

Healing Shame

Healing requires a safe environment where you can begin to be vulnerable, express yourself, and receive acceptance and empathy. Then you’re able to internalize a new experience and begin to revise your beliefs about yourself. It may require revisiting shame-inducing events or past messages and re-evaluating them from a new perspective. Usually it takes an empathic therapist or counselor to create that space so that you can incrementally tolerate self-loathing and the pain of shame enough to self-reflect upon it until it dissipates.
I just had this realization that being in this group (or some other group) and seeing a therapist is EXACTLY what I needed. 
The second part of the meeting was about the Stages of Recovery which was also incredibly enlightening.  The stages are Withdrawal (14 days), Honeymoon aka Pink Cloud (15-45 days), The Wall (45 days to 4 months), Adjustment aka the 6 month syndrome (4-6 months) and Resolution.

I always relapse during the Wall, Adjustment or Resolution stage. These stages are marked by:
The Wall -  low energy, anhedonia, relapse justification, isolation, depression, behavioral drift, resistance to exercise, dissolution of structure, interpersonal conflict
Adjustment - drifting from commitment to recovery, sloppiness regarding limits, relaxation of structure, struggle over the acceptance of addiction, boredom, lack of goals, guilt and shame, job dissatisfaction,
Resolution - struggle with lifelong addiction concept, allowing people, places, things, emotions, structure, perfectionism, neglecting balance, unrealistic expectations and the relapse justification voice to convince you to try again to moderate.

I was thinking about how to combat relapse during these different stages.  I think it is all about what I talked about in a previous post - keep myself strong (physically, mentally, emotionally) so that I can fight for my sobriety. This would include being vigilant about continuing to exercise, meditate, eating well, sleeping enough, and going to group/therapy.  If I stop doing these things, I run the risk of relapsing during a weakened state. My relapse justification voice gets stronger.

I can not begin to express the sense of relief I feel that I finally found the courage to get some help. I was so scared. In the end, you all were right, there was nothing to be scared of. All of us are in the same boat and it is so nice to be able to talk to people who "get it." I am a little nervous to join a new group, but I will do it bc I need to do it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

7/24/18 11th Group Mtg and Internal Triggers

Yesterday at the group meeting, we not only learned about internal trippers, but I experienced one first hand. I know that my two biggest internal triggers are anxiety (especially in social or family situations where I don't feel comfortable/feel worried) and excitement/happiness. I use alcohol to make my happy "it's Friday, the sun is out, I have worked hard all week" mood even happier. It escalates my good feelings.  I suppose it also relaxes my brain as well in both situations.  I am still trying to figure out how to deal with the social anxiety that comes from feeling uncomfortable.  I think that I may use alcohol bc I detest feeling uncomfortable. Being around conflict (family) or awkward silences/being inpatient in conversations/not feeling heard in social situations makes me uncomfortable.  I guess I need to learn how to deal with that feeling without the aid of a drug. Maybe growth comes from feeling uncomfortable.

In terms of escalating the happy/excited feelings - that one is hard for me. I think I am just going to have to come to terms with the fact that I won't have the "high highs" that come from drug use, but I have to remember that those "high highs", no matter how fun they are, are not worth the devastating "low lows" I ALWAYS end up getting to when drinking. Maybe a peaceful, more stable mood all the time is preferable to the roller coaster ride of addiction.

The third internal trigger that caught me by surprise yesterday was irritation. These two guys are just so incredibly annoying in group. I know I am not the only one that feels that way and it is making me not want to go. The 5 dui guy just keeps giving everyone else advice about what they need to do and the quieter older guy just talks about himself, his wife, his past musician life style, his 10 years of sobriety, his relapse, where he is now. Between these two, there is only about 20% of the time for the rest of us to talk. They even got into it a little yesterday, one of them calling the other "Dr. Phil." The therapist, my least favorite of the three, just lets it go on and on. I think she is just looking for the time to pass. When I left, I had feelings of "this is stupid and a complete waste of time. I am so over all of this. Thank goodness I only have one more meeting".  Then I noticed, from that negative space, my mind immediately jumped to "I wasn't ever that bad. What am I even doing here? This is stupid. I am sure I am fine and can moderate.  ALL of these people are way worse than me."

Maybe I should make an appt with my therapist to talk about how to deal with feeling uncomfortable bc all of these were examples of that I am even getting anxious writing about it.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

7/21/28 10th Group Mtg, 3rd Ind Mtg, Relapse Drift and ACT

Yesterday, I was at Kaiser for 4 hours! Geez!  The group part went pretty well.  I felt better than I had on Wednesday, shared more and was less irritable. 

We talked about Relapse Drift which is so relevant to me.  I quit for weeks and then slowly drift back into my drinking. They compared this to a boat that is only held to the shore with an anchor slowly being pulled out to sea.  The drifting can be so slow that you don't even noticing it happening.

Relapse does not happen suddenly. It does not happen without warning.  This is a new concept for me as I, as I have said earlier, have taken a passive approach to recovery in the past. Just kind of giving myself permission to be lazy, not work out, eat least I wasn't drinking and I deserved it. 

The difference with this approach is that I need to have "mooring lines" that keep me firmly connected to the shore (sobriety) and keep me from drifting.  These things need to be specific and measurable behaviors (not attitudes such as staying positive as they are hard to measure) that help keep me sober. My mooring lines would be working out 4 times a week, doing yoga 3 times per week, meditating 4 times per week, blogging at least once a week, going to a meeting once a week, going to bed on time 6 times per week, reading before bed 5 times per week (instead of internet browsing), watching no more than 2 hours of tv per day, walking my dogs 3 times per week, eating healthy 6 days per week, drinking enough water 7 days per week. These activities keep me mentally strong so that if I do get a craving or are triggered I am better equipped to deal with it. Again, I need to be actively working on my sobriety.

Not only do they keep me strong but they are measurable. Once a week complete a checklist. How many of these did I do? Am I starting to slip? Am I starting to watch too much tv again, not working out, eating junk food, not blogging, etc? If so, it could predict a possible relapse - that my addictive brain is starting to (may subconsciously) work on weakening my strength. Then the relapse justification voice starts whispering in my ear for a while until finally I am triggered by something and have a full on panic attack craving. In my mentally weakened state (from not taking care of myself) I give in. I don;t have to be perfect about every mooring line throughout the week, but need to try to do the things I need to do and regularly take stock to see if I am slipping.

It is a new concept for me to think that relapses are predictable based on observable behaviors.  In the past I just haven't looked at that way.  I just plug along, being passive, only feeling like I need to fight for my sobriety when I am triggered or have a craving. I now know there are things I can do before to keep me strong and ways to recognize my addiction starting to get stronger.

In my individual apt, we talked about two things. I asked if my obsession (blogging, reading, researching) could be keeping me from getting mentally stronger-keeping me in the swamp so to speak. We talked for a while until she got out of me that when I am actively drinking, I do not blog very much bc I just don't want to think about it or look at it. She suggested I keep blogging, then, but try to change the tone. Instead of it being a self deprecating, analyzation of the past, struggling posts, I write about goals, new learning and the positives of forward progress.  I think that is good advice.

We also talked about ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) which is a version of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). I need to do a lot more research on this as I hadn't heard of it before, but it is something about - instead of inherently looking at your thoughts as "wrong" and trying to change them - accepting the way your brain works and working within it to be more positive. I may be totally off, but she said it seems to be a more accepting, compassionate, loving way to deal with yourself. This will be my next research topic lol!  It sounds pretty interesting.

From Wikipedia:

The objective of ACT is not elimination of difficult feelings; rather, it is to be present with what life brings us and to "move toward valued behavior".[6] Acceptance and commitment therapy invites people to open up to unpleasant feelings, and learn not to overreact to them, and not avoid situations where they are invoked. Its therapeutic effect is a positive spiral where feeling better leads to a better understanding of the truth.[7] In ACT, 'truth' is measured through the concept of 'workability', or what works to take another step toward what matters (e.g. values, meaning).

Thursday, July 19, 2018

7/19/18 9th Group Meeting and Boredom

Yesterday's topic was boredom which is HUGE for me.  The boredom really only hits me on Friday nights, Saturday and sometimes Sunday - my normal drinking times. I can get pretty down and feel sorry for myself bc I can't go out with all my friends and have "fun" like I used to.  Nothing even seems fun without alcohol. I learned a couple of things about boredom and how to alleviate it.

Boredom is caused by

1. A structured routine weekend feels differently than an actively drinking weekend.
2. Brain chemical changes during recovery can make people feel flat or bored.
3. Alcohol causes huge emotional swings (high to low and then low to high). Normal emotions can feel flat by comparison.

I am going to try to explain this as well as I understand it. When I drink, it spikes dopamine (the reward/pleasure hormone) in my brain. Then, for me, there is a huge drop the next day (hangover, shame, regret, anger). My dopamine levels looked like a roller coaster - huge spikes Fri-Sat caused by alcohol (probably also Wed-Thurs because of the anticipation of drinking) followed by huge drops Sun-Tues (hangover , shame, anger). I have a hedonic set point of happiness. This the is best image I could find showing this, although it is related to stress instead of addiction.
Image result for hedonic set point and dopamine and addiction

By spiking the dopamine levels with alcohol every weekend I was resetting my hedonic set point - my threshold for happiness - which also explains tolerance and the need to have more drug to get the same level of pleasure

Image result for hedonic set point and dopamine and addiction

So when I stop drinking, my dopamine levels aren't ever getting anywhere near the hedonic set point which explains the feeling down, depressed, sad, not finding enjoyment in anything. It takes time for the hedonic set point to come back down and for the normal dopamine spikes that come from everyday activities (instead of being artificially spiked way above normal with the use of a drug) to be able to get above that level.

Related image

I really like that there is a scientific, biological reason for how I am feeling and proof that it will get better. It helps be realize that I am not just making all of it up.

Ways to fight this boredom until your brain resets:

Keep a recreational activity list I can go to when "bored". Try to do things that I "kind of" like - things that fill me back up such as hiking, yoga, working out, going out to dinner, hanging out with friends, walking my dogs - even if I don;t feel like it. If when finished, I say it was "just ok" - keep doing it. Things may not be "fun or great" yet - don't expect them to be. But, don't stop doing the "ok" things just bc they aren't giving you the same rush of dopamine that alcohol did. Get off the couch, go out and do things and just keep at it. It will get better. I will enjoy things again, it just takes time and sitting around depressed and sad and bored doesn't help.

Give myself things to look forward to. For 30 years I have looked forward to drinking on the weekends after working really hard during the week. I REALLY enjoyed that dopamine rush that alcohol gave me - it was my reward for being such a responsible, hardworking mother, wife, teacher, friend, sister, daughter, etc. I need to replace that with something - a hike, a massage, a trip to the mountains - instead of just doing chores and sitting around being bored all weekend. I need to find a different reward. Not sure what that is yet, but need to keep trying. Being honest, it is hard to replace the dopamine high that I got from alcohol - nothing else seems as "fun" or enjoyable.

Keep a scheduled weekend with interesting activities included. This keeps my "higher thinking brain" in control of my behaviors.

Do something challenging that furthers your personal growth. I am the happiest when being mentally challenged so I'll need to give this one some thought. What new thing could I focus my mental energy on that helps me grow as a person?

In the past I have used my thinking to change my behavior which obviously has not been successful. I think I need to shift to changing my behavior and how I spend my time (even if I don't feel like it ) to change my thinking. Instead of thinking my way out of my addiction I need to behave my way out.

Balance is the opposite of addiction.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

7/17/18 8th Group Meeting and Signs of Relapse

I was very disenchanted over the weekend. Sooo tired and unmotivated. No pink cloud. Not sleeping very well. Not getting anything done. Watching way too much tv. Super lazy. Eating junk food. Wondering why I am spending all this time at group and individual therapy. Kind of over the whole group think - listening to everyone else's stories. Was I really bad enough to be spending my whole July doing this again? This is the third summer I have wasted obsessing about alcohol. Questioning if I should stop taking the Zoloft bc it is making me feel weird. Maybe I never needed it in the first place. Nervous about my upcoming sober vacation. Nervous about my new job...elementary teacher for 20 years - moving to a middle school math position. Just kind of being down in the dumps about everything.

I did force myself to go to the meeting yesterday. I was not in a good place for the first half - just getting irritated and impatient with all of the other people there and all of their "needing to be heard". It was being facilitated by my least favorite therapist of the three.  After break, however, we talked about signs of relapse and I did learn something new.

In the past I have just tried to ignore any kind of triggers or thoughts about drinking. Just tried to push them out of my head. I tried to ignore them but they would always lead to an irresistible craving that many times I would give in to. The cycle of addiction is "trigger....thoughts .....craving.....relapse". I have always waited to jump in and fight at the craving stage which is ridiculously difficult. When I am having a full on anxiety attack, sweating, heart racing and brain saying "hurry up - just go get a beer - hurry up before you change your mind - hurry - you will be fine", it is so very hard to resist. It isn't even rational thinking at that point. It is the survival mid section of my brain (we learned this in group) overriding my frontal cortex (the rational part) telling me drinking is a survival skill. That is an addicted brain.

I learned that I need to be more proactive during the trigger and thought stage so that it never comes to the craving stage. There are behaviors (not going to group, not blogging, being lazy, not working out, eating poorly, getting irritable, shopping too much, letting my house get dirty, not getting chores done, isolating, not communicating) that start leading to the thought stage (relapse justification - was I ever that bad?, this is stupid, I feel bad anyway so what's the point,  I am sure I could moderate if I just tried harder, I don't want to never drink again, I want to hang out with my friends and fit in, one more hangover and I will be done forever, what am I going to do on vacation or with this new job and all these new people who go out on Fridays after work, maybe now isn't a good time to quit).

Right now I absolutely do not want to drink but I am possibly finding myself in the behavior part of relapse...maybe or maybe not...but I need to address it so it doesn't lead me further down the road to relapse. I need to be proactive.  I need to go to group, blog, work out, eat healthy, get off the couch and get something done, take my medication, feel productive and get out of my own head. If I do get to the thought stage of relapse, I need to use techniques such as visualization, meditation, the "angel on my shoulder" voice, read my letter to myself about all the reason I don't want to drink. If I ever get to the craving stage, I need to learn techniques like distraction and deep breathing to just be able to wait them out. They do pass.

My dh husband asked me last night if I will always need to go to group. He is not addicted so thinks I can just be cured. I told him that I am learning that I need to fight for my sobriety. I can't be passive about it and then be reactive when I get a craving. I need to learn all I can and keep getting support from like minded people. I can't just stop working at it bc I have been sober for a month or 6 months or a year. The addiction never goes away. It's always there...waiting silently...ready to pounce at any sign of weakness...waiting for me to let it get to the craving stage bc that is when it is strongest and I am weakest.  If sobriety is important to me, I need to be proactive and not passive in my recovery. This is a new approach for me and I am ready to work for it.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

7/15/18 7th Group Meeting and No Pink Cloud

Friday was a group meeting and I didn't get a whole lot out of it. It was about regaining trust again in relationships that have been destroyed bc of drinking. That doesn't really apply to me and we have a new member who also really likes to share his stories. He isn't arrogant or in denial like the 5 dui guy but he definitely monopolizes the conversation and now him and the dui guy (who are the same age) start talking about music and AA and when they were gets a little boring.

My struggle to today is my lack of a pink cloud. The first couple of times I stayed sober for a month, I was riding high with such good feelings and strong motivation. The more times I have stayed sober for a month (what is this like the 10th time), the less of a pink cloud I have. I am tried, lazy, unmotivated, uninspired, a bit depressed and for the first time since I started, don't feel like going tomorrow....just getting a little burned out. Oh well...hopefully it will pass.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

7/12/18 6th Group Meeting and Relapse Prevention

Yesterday was my 6th group meeting. I am learning that there are "addictive behaviors" that everyone has and that those behaviors will start to show up before the relapse. If I learn what those are, pay attention to them and reach out for help when they start happening, it can help me to break the cycle.

We talked about the relapse voice. What do we hear in our head before we actually choose to drink again. I know my relapse voice will say. "You aren't that bad. You never were really that bad. You never had a DUI, lost a job, ruined a relationship, drank in the morning, got the shakes, etc. You just thought you were that bad. It was your latest obsession. Now that you are doing all of this mental health work and getting better in that area, you could probably moderate. It was never really about the alcohol. It was more about not being mentally strong enough to control it. You are now much more mentally strong and could control your alcohol intake, drink with everyone else again and be happy." Man, that give me anxiety even to type it, but I know that is how I would rationalize drinking.

We talked about imagining the angel and devil on your shoulders. That is the devil, my addiction, speaking to me and it will win unless I have an alternate dialogue to shut it down. My "angel" needs to respond with, "You are right. You never did get a DUI, lost a job, ruined a relationship, drank in the morning, got the shakes, etc. and who knows if those things would have ever happened. Chances are you would end up with one of those but who knows. The reality is that you were not happy when drinking. Sure in the moment, while drinking, you felt less inhibition, more social, fun and had lower stress and anxiety. But what you give up is not worth it. You give up your ability to feel true happiness and joy in everyday things. You will be right back to obsessing with when, with whom and how much you are drinking. You have proof that you can't control it - 7 years of blogging proof. 7 years of agony and self hatred and disappointment and mental obsession and fighting and trying and anxiety and exhaustion and heart palpitations and insomnia. You are so much more patient, kind, tolerant, calm, accommodating, self confident and able to take care of yourself when not on the hamster wheel.  What you gain by drinking for those 4-6 hours, is not worth everything else you mentally give up for the other 162 hours of the week. You can do this! You can be strong and say no to this addicted voice that doesn't care about your long term happiness, only the in the moment gratification. You can be a light in this alcohol soaked world that shows people there is a different way to live - that you can be sober and happy - that you don't need a drug to be happy. You can make your family proud! You can make yourself proud! You are a strong woman who can beat this - just don't drink today. Love yourself enough to deny yourself the things that you may want but know are bad for you. You feel so much better and are a better version of yourself when you are sober."

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

7/11/18 - 3rd Individual Appt and Codependency

Yesterday I met with my therapist. We talked a lot about my childhood and how I kind of felt like I never really mattered. My dad was an alcoholic so I always felt like alcohol mattered more to him. My mom was so consumed with my father's alcoholism, her divorce and then her own life once she got remarried that I never felt that I really mattered to her. Even as adults I always felt that my youngest sister mattered more as my mom seemed to always take her side to try to get me to make things better bc she knew my sister wouldn't. I went to 9 different schools in 12 years so I never really mattered to friends except for one when I was in 6th grade, but then we moved.

Maybe that is why I need to feel valued in a conversation. I hate it when I don't think someone is listening to me or all they want to talk about is themselves.  I have been guilty of this as well, but am aware of it and am working on it. The more I work on being a good listener, the more I notice how everyone else is not. Most of the time, I really don't feel like what I say matters. People are really only half listening and are more interested in talking about themselves. It is annoying. It causes me to get impatient and bored in conversations which makes it difficult to socialize which leads to isolation which might lead back to drinking. Alcohol makes me not care about that. When drinking with a friend, I don't notice that they aren't really listening. I don't think either one of us is really listening...just mindless chatter for hours fueled by alcohol. It does, however, make it easier to communicate and be social.

So what am I going to do about that? I asked the therapist and she had two suggestions. First, she suggested I need to expand my bubble of friends. Maybe find some volunteer activities or attend some recovery meetings. Just put myself out there and be open to making some new connections with new people. I think that is a great idea, so I am searching around for some different opportunities.  Instead of quasi-connecting with everyone while drinking, find some friends that I have a lot in common with and enjoy talking to - relationships where I do feel valued.

Second she suggest I read this book: 

Facing Codependence: What It Is, Where It Comes from, How It Sabotages Our Lives

by Pia Mellody.  I thought, "Codependent? What? I don't even think I really know what that means?" I thought it had to do with enabling others in their additions and problems.  Last night I watched this video: . I was fascinated by what she was saying. The part that I identified with the most is being very egocentric in terms of self validation and thinking that everyone needs to think the way I do and understand me. If they don't, it is my job to make them see it my way bc obviously my way is right and they have a problem with the way they see things. The idea is that I shouldn't be trying to change other people and that what their opinion is of me shouldn't have an effect on me. That the neglect I felt in childhood, has caused me to feel undervalued which then causes the secondary symptoms of needing to be liked by everyone and understood at all times....or something like that. I am going to order that book today.

So instead of using alcohol to make me feel liked and valued (bc I don't notice while intoxicated if I'm not being listened to), I need to find new connections with new people and I need to basically live and let live. Be the best person and friend I can be, not let other people's judgement effect me and let other people be who they are without judging them.  

Kind of that whole thing of - "What your opinion is of me is none of my business as long as I am happy with my opinion of myself."

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

7/10/18 - 5th Group Meeting and Isolation

Lots of new people at the meeting yesterday - two of which just got out of inpatient. We were talking about the varying degrees of the people in the group. I shared that although I have only had minor physical withdrawals (heart palpitations, anxiety, sweating) I had mentally gotten so bad that I had wished I would have a withdrawal seizure so I would know for certain I was "bad enough" to stop. The girl who just got out of inpatient said she had gone to medical detox twice in May. She said that you do not want to go through that. It is horrible. Again, I am just using the experiences of all of the people in the group to reinforce my reasons for quitting.  The 5 DUI guy said yesterday that he isn't physically addicted because he doesn't get the shakes.  I want to say to him - "that is bc you admitted you have drank everyday for the past 30 years". He also talks about cracking open his beers in the car on the way home from work bc "why not - they are cold." His level of denial is astonishing and I am tired of listening to his using stories like they are a badge of honor. I am going to ask my therapists today at my individual appointment how to deal with it.

I did learn yesterday that there are certain behaviors that can signal a relapse. For example, I think sometimes I drink bc I am lonely and/or bored. I miss connecting with other people when I isolate. I don't mind watching Netflix on a Saturday night and have given myself permission to do so but I think after a while it starts to depress me a bit. When I really start isolating, maybe that is a sign that a relapse could be coming and I need to do something about it.  I need to find some sober groups to meet with, go out with my friends without drinking, volunteer, accept offers to go out to dinner, just force myself to be around people so that I am not constantly isolating and then have a need to drink to connect.  I am a very social person and I need to find a way to connect with people without drinking or I will end up drinking again bc I am lonely.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

7/7/18 4th Group Mtg and Talked to my sister

I went to my group meeting yesterday. I was so sad to hear that of the 10 of us, 3 had relapsed over the holiday. I could see the disappointment and sadness in their eyes as they admitted it.  They were different the entire meeting - quieter, watery/nervous eyes, sad...I know those feelings. I tried to use that as motivation. I would be feeling the exact same way if I had drank and I don't want to feel that way anymore.

The meeting was fine. Sometimes I am getting sick of all the time this is taking up - like 14 hours a week with the commute- but I am committed to seeing it through. Sometimes I feel like I don't have a right to share bc all those these people seem to be further down the road than me. That one guy (turns out this is his 5th DUI) was there and I am really struggling with that. He is so smug. He acts like...I have been were you all are, I know all the rules about getting a DUI, I have been to rehab/on antibuse/to jail/etc. and let me share that with you. He really does monopolize the conversation and sometimes even gets a little condescending and rude to other members of the group. No one says anything and I feel bad for the therapists, but don't know if I should say anything. I do know that he causes me anxiety during the group. I am afraid if I call him out, I will just be causing more tension which is not good for the group. Maybe I will email the therapist.

Yesterday we talked about truthfulness and total abstinence.  It was interesting, but not really any new information. I was too preoccupied with how annoyed I was feeling.

My sister finally asked me (2 weeks later) how it was going. We talked for a bit and the question she asked was, "Have you asked them if you would be able to drink moderately again in the future?" WHAT!?!?! Did she really just ask me that? I don't get it. Is she really that clueless about what I have been going through? Does she really want me to drink with her that badly? Is she not willing to look at her own drinking so is uncomfortable with me looking at mine? Does she really even listen when I tell her how bad it is gotten?  I was shocked she would ask me that. I told her that I have already proven to my self over the last ten years that I cannot be attempting to moderate and find happiness.  It is just too much of a mental obsession, even if I am not drinking that much by other people's standards. I also told her that I have learned that once you cross that line into addiction, you can never go back. As much as I would like to be a moderate drinker (even though I am not even sure of that anymore but didn't say that to her) and drink with her, it is just not worth the mental obsession/anxiety/depression/torture that comes with it. She is a big trigger for me. She is the one I almost always break my sobriety with. Maybe that is bc I know she secretly wants me to continue to drink with her so she won't judge me when I do drink. I don't know how to make her understand just how mentally destructive alcohol is for me - even when I am successfully moderating.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

7/5/18 3rd Group Meeting, 2nd Individual Apt and 4th of July

Monday I went to my group appt. It was fine. There was one guy there who was super annoying. He was new and tried to dominate the conversation like he was an expert saying things like, "It's all about self awareness. You have to be ready to do it for yourself. You have to find reasons to stay sober."  He just kept talking to the group like he was the therapist for like three hours.  I could tell he has done this before. I just kept thinking to myself, "If you were such an expert, you wouldn't be sitting here with you third felony dui looking at 2-6 years in prison and making excuses that you weren't even that far over the limit."  He seemed very much in denial. I kinda felt sorry for him.  Anyway,  my take away from that meeting was that I need to change my motivation for staying sober over time. My motivation has always been so I don't feel like shit in the mornings. The problem with that is that I forget how bad I felt and then rationalize drinking. I need to find positive reasons of why I want to stay sober like the fact that remaining sober allows me to be the person I want to be and fits in with my life goals and values.

Tuesday I went to an individual appt with a different therapist, and I really liked her. She paid attention to me, took some notes and said she would gather a few resources for my appt next week. She understood what my goals were and said she could help me with some strategies to remain sober. She talked a little about some CBT stuff like being an outside observer of your thoughts when you start rationalizing drinking. That you don't have to act on those thoughts and by analyzing them, you can figure out why they might be happening so you can be proactive in keeping them at bay.

Yesterday I went to a party next door for the 4th. It was actually pretty small and other than two people, most weren't drinking that much. If I was drinking, I probably wouldn't have even noticed that most people weren't drinking that much. I would have been tying one on and assuming everyone else was as well. I would have been singing karaoke, thinking I was a really good singer, and woken up today embarrassed and super down on myself.  I had my seltzer water and didn't try to hide it. The host asked if I wanted anything else to drink. I said, "No, I'm fine but thanks" and that was that. I had a couple of conversations with some people, but mostly was kinda bored. I never had an urge to drink, just wished I wasn't so bored. I'll need to watch that feeling bc it has caused me to drink in the past. I came home and played Monopoly with my son and nephew. Oh well, at least I didn't isolate at home and I feel good today.

Keep on keepin on...

Sunday, July 1, 2018

7/1/18 - A tough Sat but a good Sun morning

I had a lot of anxiety yesterday. I think it is more of a side effect of the Zoloft (which I am reading is normal and will go away) than it was because I wanted to drink. However, the feeling of anxiety made me kind of want to drink, maybe bc drinking would me feel better, maybe bc I relate that anxious feeling to needing alcohol. Dh and a couple neighbors went to the Beer Festival. It turned out to be stupid, and I picked them up early. A few of them went to a "Speakeasy" after and said it was super cool and fun. Then they continued to party at a neighbor's house until late. Dh came home, we had dinner and he went over there for an hour bc they were bugging him to go. I didn't care. I watched Big Brother (I know...don't judge) which he refuses to watch lol. When he got home he said they were wasted.  I would have been right there with them.  I was a little jealous of the Speakeasy thing, but I am so glad this morning I didn't participate. I would have woken up this morning with a hangover and so much anxiety.

The interesting part is that one of the women who went stopped drinking. I am under the impression from neighborhood gossip) that she also had a big problem with alcohol. I don't know her very well, but I am a bit jealous she could do all of that with them and not drink. I will get there....that is my goal.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

6/30/18 - 2nd Group Meeting and Support Groups

From Anne - "Bottom is when you stop digging." Thanks for that I needed that today.

I was much less nervous this time. I even shared a bit. It is weird that I can be sitting in a room full of meth addicts, cocaine addicts, weed addicts and alcohol addicts and we all speak the same language to varying degrees.  I wouldn't think I would have anything in common with a meth addict, but sometimes he says stuff that I find myself nodding my head to.

On the other hand, I kind of find myself feeling not as bad as anyone else in the room. Many, maybe all, of the participants are court ordered.  They refer to DUIs or court hearings or just getting out of inpatient. They talk about isolating in their house and using all day every day. They talk about losing family members and jobs and licences.  They are needing to get paper work filled out. My mind keeps going to, "What am I doing here? I am not this bad. Geez, I am not going to talk about myself...they will just secretly laugh."

I try to remind myself exactly what Anne said - my bottom is when I stop digging. The therapist said that I will only get I try to stop rationalizing bc that will lead me to drinking and be proud of myself that I am getting help before I did get to the place many of these people have gotten to. Maybe they were all where I am at one point and wished they would have gotten help sooner. When I mentioned that everything in my neighborhood focuses on alcohol, one lady was totally nodding her head. She said that they even play kickball with a cigarette in one hand and a drink in the other. She said it is great fun, until you get stopped for a DUI on your way home.  Now she is facing a court appearance on Monday and is scared her licence will be revoked. That really could have been me on numerous occasions. In fact one of our neighbors asked us to join an Bocci ball team with him. He even said, we drink as much as we play lol.  That so could have been me or could be me in the future. Do I really need to have the legal troubles these people have before I stop drinking?

I can't imagine the shame I would feel if in her situation. How I would have let down my kids, my husband, my family, most of all...myself.  How embarrassed I would be. How mad I would be at myself. It would be just horrible. It almost makes me cry to think about it. I need to stop trying to fool myself. That is exactly where I was headed. Plus, these women look a little rough around the edges. Alcohol certainly doesn't do anything for your appearance.

Yesterday was about support groups. There was a discussion about AA and about other different types of groups. They were talking about sponsors and having someone to call. I asked about SMART meetings and someone said that you need to have someone to call. I said that I didn't think I would call anyone, I just need to figure out how to deal with my own addictive voice through CBT. The therapist then said, straight to me, that I really should consider joining some other type of group when I am finished with IOP. She said that it is helpful because (1) it gives yo a place to talk to people that truly understand what you are going through and (2) it gives your family a break from hearing about it.  I really heard that. She is family doesn't really get it and I do feel like it is a worrisome burden for them sometimes to always listen to me bc I do need someone to talk to.  Even though it really scares me to join an outside group, I will think about it. Everything I have done so far was all super scary and I have survived.

Also, I really liked this therapist so I scheduled an appt with her for next Tuesday. Four appt/meetings in four days! That was a lot to handle. Now I get a break for the weekend. It will be interesting to see how I feel on Monday morning.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

6/28/18 1st Individual Appt and Distractions

This was just ok. The first 30 minutes was her trying to figure out how to make additional appts for me on the computer. The next 20 were me telling her about myself and the last 10 were a couple of pieces of advice. Not sure how well we connected. She seems nice enough to talk to and share stuff with, but might be a little to casual for me. I really don't need a sympathetic ear. I need more of a get done to the nitty gritty of how strategies. She did say a couple of things that stuck with me:

You can't out think a thinking problem with more thinking when your thinking is the problem. When I want to drink or start trying to convince myself that it would be ok, I need to distract myself with something completely different.

Every person she has seen that is similar to me and hasn't stopped drinking had ended up being a daily drinker. It gets worse. For everyone.  That was a little scary.

PS - two weeks later - I am not sure I agree with this. While I agree that distraction is helpful, I don't think it is a long term solution. I do think that I need to figure out what is wrong with my thinking to address the reasons I keep going back. My new therapist is more in tune with this view.

6/28/18 Told My Sister and Mother

Yesterday I sent the following text to my sister and my mother.

Yesterday I went to a four hour chemical dependence appointment downtown.  I saw a therapist and a psychiatrist. I was diagnosed with moderate alcohol use disorder, OCD and anxiety. They want me to complete an intensive outpatient program (three hours a day, three times a week for the next four weeks), see a personal therapist once a week for the next four weeks along with a couple of psychiatric appointments and medication.  I just wanted you to know. I've been in a pretty dark place in my own head for a very long time and I am sick of it. Even thought it scares me to death and is going to be hard, I decided to ask for help. 

I wasn't quite sure how they were going to respond.  I was worried my sister would be like - oh brother, she is so dramatic and my mom would just be like - well we all have our problems.

The responses were better than I expected.

From my mom, "I am so thankful you have reached out for help. I know this has been going on for a very long time and has been difficult for you. It is hard for people that don't have the same issues to walk in your shoes, but we all have issues and faults. You are very strong and I am so proud of you for seeking out the help. It sounds very intense and I am here for you. Please talk to me whenever you need to. I can't help if you don't ask. I love you."

Other than the comment of "we all have our faults" I think that was a pretty positive response. The thing that bugs me a little is that if she knew this has been a problem for a long time (and I know she has bc I have told her before) why doesn't she ever ask how I am doing. Sure she says, "How are you?" but she never says, "How is the sobriety or issues with alcohol going.  How are you really doing?"  I have never really gotten emotional support from my mom. She asks how I am doing but doesn't really want to hear anything other than "fine." She doesn't deal very well with listening to my struggles. Sometimes she projects them onto herself, "I was a bad mom" or starts going off on how hard her day was or just says things like "you will get through it - this will pass." I have never, ever felt true empathy from. When I would call her at work as a child and tell her I was sick, she would only say, "Do I need to call the school?" She never really nurtured and showed a lot of love toward me. And my dad was an alcoholic who abandoned She cares for people by doing. I think she is a little emotionally unavailable to everyone (not just me), so the response was better than expected. I hope, that with sobriety, I will become a little more forgiving and a little less sensitive  around my mom so our relationship can improve....just to be able to accept her for who she is and not feel so hurt all the time.

Also, for those of you that have been reading for along time, my other sister still isn't talking to anyone in the family (except our mom) and is in town this weekend. Part of me felt like, "See, mom, she isn't the only daughter you have that is struggling so don't you dare make me feel guilty for not reaching out to her while she is here. I am working on my own shit over here and might need a little of your support and compassion as well. It's always been all about her. Well here I am, not your perfect little daughter who you expect to make everything right in this family. Maybe somebody can show me a little care and support right now or do I always have to be the strong one?" Wow! That just came out. Oh may sound immature, but it's true.

From my sister, "That is great news! I think it will really help you to talk to somebody else vs you continuing to diagnose yourself. I'm glad you are doing it."

That was way better than I expected! I knew she would be supportive, but I don't know if she has ever truly believed I had a problem.  I think she has thought that I do have issues with obsessive behavior and this was just my latest thing to fixate on. I think she has had a hard time seeing the severity for the same reason I did. Because I am a binge drinker, I don't drink everyday, I don't have any of the classic "alcoholic" symptoms like our father, I haven't lost a  job or gotten a DUI, and I quit for long periods of time. Therefore, she doesn't understand why I can't just control my intake. She really has no idea the mental anguish alcohol causes me. I have told her some of it before, but as much as she would hate to admit it, she is a bit like our mother in terms of emotional availability.  My sister is just a pretty black and white, I won't complain about my problems so I would rather not hear about yours kind of person.  I love her dearly and know she supports me, but she certainly is not the emotional mush ball that I am.  She is also the sister that I always relapse with. It is not ever her fault. She doesn't try to get me to drink, but she also doesn't discourage me when I decide to.  I think she likes to drink with me and might be a little disappointed when I don't. I hope that by telling her, she understands the gravity of my issue...that it isn't just my latest obsession...that this issue is killing me mentally and emotionally. I am also going to work hard to create a new sober relationship with her. We have always drank together, so it might take some work but my relationship with her is worth it.

BTW - my husband, daughter and son know everything, have known a lot of it for a long time and totally support all of it.  I do have a great support system in my immediate family.  My husband has been a bit of an enabler through the years. He drinks every weekend (not usually to a binge level) and I think he likes when I drink. I have always been able to talk to him and he has always been compassionate about my struggles. He has always reminded me of my struggles and has told me he thinks it is better that I don't drink but, until that Sunday two weeks ago, has been pretty sympathetic of my hangovers and struggles....never any tough love. Remember two weeks ago he was pretty mad at me from the night before and said "You choose - quit drinking or be an alcoholic!" He has never said anything like that to me before, and I was so hurt. He felt so bad, but I told him it might have been the thing that pushed me to making that call four days later. He totally supports my sobriety because he knows how much anguish it has caused me for so many years. My 23 yo daughter is my rock. She has an amazing way of being gentle yet firm with me. She knows everything and always tries to talk me out of trying again and tells me she is disappointed and worried when I do. For a long time I felt guilty about talking to her but she says, "Mom, I am 23 yo, you are my best friend, I am glad I can be there for you, you have always been there for me, we help each other, I feel so special that you can talk to me and I am a lot like you. I have learned so much from you, which is probably why I don't drink."  My 19 yo son still keeps trying to tell me I'm not that bad. He doesn't want me to drink but is trying to get me to feel better about myself. I tell him that comments like that don't help. I know he means well, but it turns on my addicted voice that says, "Maybe he is right. Maybe I'm not that bad. Why am I doing all this. This is stupid."

It seems I am having to educate my whole family that just because I am not the stereotypical image of an alcoholic doesn't mean that I am not one.